Partners in Evil: The Psychopath and Malignant Narcissist Combo

You probably have heard on the news about the kidnapping of Jaycee Lee Duguard, when she was only 11 years old. The young girl was kidnapped on June 10, 1991 from a school bus stop near her home and held hostage for more than 18 years by Phillip and Nancy Garrido. Garrido raped and imprisoned Jaycee. They had two girls together (age 11 and 15 at the time they were discovered by the police), whom Garrido and his wife also imprisoned in unsanitary tents in their backyard.

At the time they kidnapped Jaycee, Garrido had already been convicted of a sex crime. Despite the fact that parole officers checked regularly the house, they didn’t bother to look in the couple’s backyard, behind a fence. Nancy Garrido is shown on one tape interfering with the police inspection, harassing the inspector in order to distract him and prevent him from finding Jaycee and the girls. She is a partner in her husband’s crime; a fellow abuser. The couple pled guilty to kidnapping and other charges on April 28, 2011 and were convicted on June 2, 2011. Phillip Garrido was sentenced to 431 years of imprisonment while Nancy received a lesser sentence of 36 years to life.

We see this phenomenon of dangerous duos, or partners in evil, on the news over and over again. What kind of women stay with male psychopaths, enable their wrongdoings, participate in them and then cover them up? Sometimes it’s female psychopaths who partner in crime sprees with their male counterparts. The most notable example of this is Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo, the young Canadian couple who kidnapped and killed several young women, including Karla’s younger sister. They were convicted in 1993 and are perhaps the inspiration behind  Oliver Stone‘s controversial movie, Natural Born Killers (1994). Usually, however, two psychopaths together can’t last long. Each has to outdo the other in wrongdoings; each wants to be top dog; each looks out for number one and, at the slightest provocation, turns against the other (as, in fact, happened in the case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka).

The partnership between Phillip and Nancy Garrido reflects a different dynamic: the equally dangerous yet usually far more enduring combination between a psychopath and a malignant narcissist. In this combination, there is a clear top dog who guides the relationship: the psychopath. However, the malignant narcissist helps him carry out his wrongdoings and covers up for him. What is in it for a malignant narcissist when she teams up with a psychopath? How does this dynamic play out and why does it last? These are the questions I’d like to address next.

I have explained at length the features of a psychopath and why his lack of conscience and empathy, combined with an underlying psychological sadism (enjoyment at causing others pain) would lead him to commit the kinds of crimes Phillip Garrido was found guilty of. But what kind of woman stands by such a man? My hypothesis is: a malignant narcissist. All narcissistic personalities–even those who appear to have high self-confidence and to consider themselves superior to others–crave constant validation. An insatiable need for validation forms the core of unhealthy, excessive narcissism. I say “excessive narcissism” because we all have egos or selves and thus we all have some narcissistic tendencies that are healthy–in moderation–and make us the individuals we are.

Psychopaths are very adept at identifying individuals who suffer from unhealthy, excessive narcissism. Why? Because such individuals appear to be vulnerable and insecure. Caring too much about what others think and pinning one’s self-esteem on the opinions of others is, indeed, a weakness and a vulnerability. Those who suffer from narcissistic personality disorder have a weak and relative sense of self that needs constant validation. They need to feel better than others or superior to others in order to have an identity and feel good about themselves.

Psychopaths form a symbiotic relationship with such highly narcissistic individuals by holding out the promise of becoming a superior and very special couple. Because psychopaths have an inherent sense of superiority and because they’re thrill seekers who consider themselves to be above the rules and laws, they often manage to convince such narcissistic partners that together they make an unbeatable power couple: closer than other couples, better than them, smarter than them, more cunning than them, hotter than them. During the honeymoon phase of the relationship, there are no words in any language to describe this superlative superiority.

The problem is, as we know, that psychopaths inevitably pass from the idealization phase to a devaluation phase in all of their relationships. This is part and parcel of their personality disorder: to become bored with and emotionally detach from every person they are with. Since a narcissistic partner requires constant reassurance of her superiority to other women–especially since the psychopath,with his constant flirting and cheating, gives her plenty of reasons to be jealous of them–she will feel threatened during the devaluation phase, when he no longer finds her hot, virtuous, brilliant, practical, wise, and all the other qualities he formerly (and all too briefly) ascribed to her.

That’s when the most dangerous and pathological aspect of their relationship begins. During the devaluation phase, the malignant narcissist begins to be rewarded almost exclusively by the punishment of other women the psychopath hooks up with, uses, devalues and abuses. She may no longer be as wonderful as she seemed in his eyes in the beginning. However, there’s this reward left in their “special” and “superior” relationship: by staying with her; by needing her as an alibi and cover for him; by harming other women jointly, she proves her (sick) love and loyalty to him while he, in turn, acknowledges her superiority to all the other women he uses and abuses worse than he does her.

The worse other women are treated by the psychopath–in more commonplace cases, used and disposed of like dirty condoms; in extreme cases, raped and murdered–the more this abuse confirms her special status in his eyes. Such women are without conscience, without remorse, without empathy just like the psychopaths themselves. They are manipulative, deceptive and abusive like psychopaths. The main difference between such malignant narcissists and the psychopaths is that the narcissists are in some respects weaker and more vulnerable.

They tend to be followers rather than leaders because of their excessive need for validation, which puts them at the mercy of others and makes them especially appealing to psychopaths: as their partners in life and allies in wrongdoings. If you read about other similar cases to that of Phillip and Nancy Garrido or about the psychology of cult followers, you will see this psychological dynamic at play. There are few more enduring and dangerous duos than these partners in evil: the psychopath and malignant narcissist combo.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction


  1. hmmmmm excellent post! I’d like to put a comment on here but I wont in case I get done for slander. All I can say is narcissist women as enablers to psychopath men aren’t a great combination when it comes to parenting 😉

  2. Sarah, you’re right, a malignant narcissist/sociopath combo is the worst for children, because then the mother enables and covers up the abuse usually perpetrated by the father. And it can last for years and years, because a narcissist is usually extremely dependent upon and loyal to the psychopath. The reality show Wicked Attractions, on Investigation Discovery, shows plenty of real-life examples of this toxic combo. Claudia

  3. Hi Claudia –

    I think this explains why my recovery experience has been so horrible with my psychopath. Year one I was dealing with the problems with him and year two I was dealing with the attacks from the narc wife. However, I wonder about the definition of malignant narcissist. Wiki definitions places it closer to a sociopath. But I think the difference between them is narcissists primarily need approval/validation and sociopaths primarily need control. So we can see how it makes a perfect match as the sociopath controls the narcissist through giving intermittent validation and they both get their primary needs met! They are a nightmare couple though. An absolute nightmare for anyone who gets caught in their shiny but absolutely destructive web.


  4. Also, I see some parallels with the enneagram system. A sociopath is a unhealthy enneagram eight and the narcissist is an unhealthy enneagram two with a three wing. You can see the description of this couple and the reasons they don’t break up easily at:

    As an aside, your website is great and has writings that describe my experience more closely than anything else I’ve read. It helps me so much to realize that my experience is normal, and that in time, I will be my happy self again. I get so much closer everyday.

  5. Sam, thanks for the link and for your positive reinforcement. The website is becoming even better thanks to the input of readers, who share with us their experience and illuminate personality disorders. Your comments really add a lot to my articles, so I’d like to thank everyone who has shared with us their experiences with disordered personalities and their insights. Claudia

  6. Sam, yes, that’s the key distinction between a malignant narcissist and a psychopath: what unites them in their destructive goals is a common lack of empathy for others and need for superiority. But in some respects the combo of a malignant narcissist and a psychopath is even more dangerous than that of two psychopaths. Two psychopaths are unlikely to stick together for long, given their equal need for dominating the other. They betray each other fast. But a malignant narcissist will be likely to stick to a psychopath for life because she will always be dependent on his validation to fill out her empty sense of self. He, in turn, will exploit that since he needs someone to dominate and manipulate (into hurting others as well). That’s why you will find that the people most loyal to psychopaths even after they find out about their disorder, their wrongdoings, and/or their crimes, are such malignant narcissists. They’re the kinds of women on the show Wicked Attractions who help the psychopath dispose of the bodies and lie to the police to cover for him. This reality show offers extreme examples, of course. However, this dangerous combination between psychopath and narcissist couples exists even in those cases where the harm inflicted upon others is less extreme or obvious than murder. Claudia

  7. Hi Claudia

    Just to say this is a great article and i can totally see how and why women would be drawn into this false “they are the special one as they are living with the pyschopath/married to him etc”…on one occasion my ex said to me that he wanted me to sleep with him whilst his ex gf watched (of course to triangulate and make her and me jealous) but he added “but it would be YOU i would be making love to not her…” which of course is to make you think that you are special…above all others…when if fact you are not…no one is above or means anything to these individuals. But I can see how and why the sick spin that is put on the selling of the psycho’s wants and needs can brainwash women into believing the hype.
    another fab article claudia. keep them coming!!! lesleyxx

  8. Lesley, I hope you’re enjoying your vacation! This triangulation is typical, as is the lure into it: you’re the one I love, not her. Then why in the world are you with her? Why did you want her in the bed? The actions always contradict the words for psychopaths. But in the beginning people listen to the words, rather than examining their actions, because they’re falling in love and because they want to believe the fantasy. Of course, this article was not just about that, but primarily about a small subset of victims that are also victimizers and suffer from a very similar personality disorder and lack of empathy, as the psychopaths. Such women enjoy it when the psychopath devalues or harms other partners because it makes them feel superior and special. Claudia

  9. Good Morning, Claudia! Your article, as well as your post here, is so enlightening and makes such perfect sense. Thank you for helping me to understsnd the dynamic(s). The ex-Psychopath and his new girlfriend Ms. “N” (I used to refer to her as victim, but no mas) are living out the above referrenced “rolls”, in their truest fashion. I hadn’t been able to make sense of it/the dynamic, however, after reading this particular, most detailed article, all of the pieces have fallen into place. I had not had to face them or their evil, until a couple of months ago, when I was holding an open house, and they came by to view the property. Unfortunately, this occured again, 3 weeks later, and without boring you with the entire story, an additional disordered person (the “N’s” best friend, and the most evil of the 3) came into play at this unexpected meeting of the “P & N” minds.

    What was so sickening, was that they had used/exploited me as a means to play on “eachother”. I was their object/”tool” for which to use, to get to eachother, as well as cause their much desired drama, that they seem to be so highly addicted to. Unfortunately, it set me back in my healing process as Player #3/most evil one, was unsuccessful at acquiring the information she so desperately wished to get out of me, and in turn “filled in the blanks” so to speak, with HER OWN fantasies and story, telling those falsehoods to the P and his new girlfrind, and in turn, once again, causing unnecessary, additional trouble for me, in the end. I inadvertently all gave them the opportunity to bully and exploit me, just by me being present.

    I had been in virtually no contact with them since the beginning of the “end” of my relationship with the P. These 2 occurances have caused me to learn “the hard way”, that I am not ready just yet, to risk crossing paths with the evil trouble makers. I need more time, to build more resiliency. I had not given thaought to the fact that I would have needed psychological preparation, or additional resiliency/strength, ego of mind while going about my business, on those occassions. I don’t think we expect these situations to occur, as they do. There really should be a separate planet for these entities to exist… if they must exist, at all!

    Have a wonderful weekend!

    Much Peace and Love,


  10. Cherie, this sounds like a very complicated mess, because your psychopathic ex apparently surrounded himself with several disordered women. This happens often. Psychopaths use countless victims, but they bond best with pathological individuals: either individuals who are psychopaths as well (recall that Stalin’s favorite person was Hitler and he was shocked when Hitler declared war on Russia) or, as described here, malignant narcissists who need the sociopath to debase other women (or men) in order to maintain a sense of their own false superiority. It sounds like this is what happened in your situation with the psychopath and his narcissistic girlfriend. Thank goodness you escaped that sick triangulation. No doubt, however, they’ll lure other victims into their spider’s web. Claudia

  11. Claudia, this is so true, and I love your analogy with regard to Stalin and Hitler. So perfect. The Psychopath is only about himself, his own self gratification, and gain. I do have to wonder though, about Stalin’s feeling of shock towards Hitlers action. If they truly do opporate in similar, if not the same (disordered) ways, thinking only of themselves, and capable of any amount of destruction, is it the notion that they have that their so-called counter parts would never betray their loyalty? Or is it their ego? It is most interesting. Deceiver’s can be deceived!! : ). Yay! Sorry. But I likey!

    Actually, the new girlfriend surrounded herself, or sucked in the P and #3/most evil one. #3 despises P, but throws him parties when he’s sulking. It is interesting. I’m sure to keep up her appearances with P’s new girlfriend. #3 and P have known eachother for several years through business. New girlfriend just came into the picture, 10 months, ago. P uses girlfriend as accomplice and to do his dirty work. She did a real number on me, right after I initially left the relationship, and moved to a brand new office. They all feed off of each other, and it is interesting, as they have all spewed there gossip about one another to me, at some point, during moments, when exploiting me. I actually use this as a gift, as it aids in reminding me how sick they all are, as they are all aware of each other’s major evil and disfunction, yet they choose to have very close and intense relationships with one another, as well as a group, many times. It is so demented, destructive, delusional and disfunctional, and it cause vast amounts of gratitude with myself, to know that I am outside of their disease, and get to view them as the victims of their own demise, that they are. Suckers….

    : )

  12. Cherie, I think Stalin respected Hitler because although sociopaths respect themselves most, they have some kind of secondary admiration for people as ruthless and heartless as they are. They view those qualities as a sign of strength and consider normal, empathetic human beings weak. Your ex sounds like Picasso, not in art but in manipulating several women that know of each other. Note to (any) self about boundary number one: don’t be part of such a (Western) harem. It’s always bad news and usually the symptom of a personality disorder, either narcissism or psychopathy. I’m so glad you got out of that unhealthy situation, with several disordered personalities: the psychopath and some of his girlfriends as well. Claudia

  13. Hi Claudia –

    I’ve read that psychopaths have the emotional maturity of five year olds and narcissists have the emotional maturity of six year olds. So whenever I think of the P/N couple I try to view them this way. Like super large children with a house and fancy cars, who talk and act like adults but are still emotionally children. This helps me steer clear and not buy into their appearance of normality. Having had five and six year old children at one point, I think OMG!! what craziness!!


  14. Sam, psychopaths are definitely emotionally immature like little kids, but without the cuteness, innocence and with a HUGE dosage of malignancy. It’s the discrepancy between psychopaths’ usually high mental capacities and low emotional intelligence that’s so dangerous. As you know, it means endless malicious manipulation without any empathy or caring for the victims. The worst combo possible: explosive! Claudia

  15. Hi Claudia, Thank you so much. I truly appreciate your sweetness in stating that you are glad that I got out of the relationship. I’m very grateful. I still feel very duped, and at times still angry, but that is disipating as the days, weeks and months go by. I am learning first-hand, that it is in fact time, that heals the wounds of this nature.

    ps: I appreciate your blog and wonderful website. Thank you for sharing yourself and all of your incredible knowledge. It is so very hery helpful.

  16. Cherie, thanks so much for your kind words. I’m so glad to be able to be able to help you and others who have been through what I’ve been through, sometimes even worse. That’s the only positive thing I took from the relationship with the psychopath: inside knowledge into how these people think, so I can inform others about psychopaths and narcissists. However, it seems that all the information that is out there on this subject still only reaches those who have been burned by psychopaths, not those who haven’t. The general public still believes that psychopaths are all serial killers or murderers and that this personality disorder will not touch their lives. I hope that in the near future the cumulative information of all the psychopathy websites and books will touch those who haven’t yet been hurt by psychopaths as well, to prevent harm. Claudia

  17. Thank you Claudia I had a lovely time and feel a lot more relaxed! Yes my ex definitely kept a hold of women that had some sort of disorder (his ex was AA actually two of them were) and with addictions there is always a reason behind why these people have these addictions (my ex was an alcoholic too though he had not drank for 17 years). Pyschopaths seem to surround themselves with people that will do their bidding in the hope that they will be rewarded with love from the pycho but sadly that never happens. they are just made more and more of a fool of as he continue to “fall in love” with others and dupe more and morepeople. They really are the most toxic individuals and they play with the inner workings of your head so much that you feel as though your wires have been scrambled for a long time afterwards! as you know!!
    great posts Claudia. i love your site and have bought Robert Hare’s book without conscience, which is excellent.

  18. Lesley, I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed your vacation. I think at some point the narcissists (I describe in this article) who cling to psychopaths begin to realize that they’ll never be rewarded with real love, but they enjoy the pleasure of seeing and hearing about the spleen and hatred the psychopath dumps on other women. If they can’t be rewarded with love and respect, at least they feel superior due to the fact that the psychopath dumps more spleen and venom upon other women, other victims. I think that is a typical narcissist way of thought, not just on an individual scale but on a more global one as well. I recall from my childhood how Nicolae Ceausescu, the narcissistic dictator of communist Romania, seemed to relish the fact most people in the country were hungry and miserable while he, his wife and cronies enjoyed seven course meals and designer clothes. Narcissists are rewarded by the CONTRAST between their status and those who lack those privileges or status: however that may be measured, be it in terms of material goods and power or in terms of the meagre and strategic validation provided by a psychopathic partner. Claudia

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